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Academy Chair Academy Chair-Elect

Kim Dunleavy


Chad Lairamore



Physical Therapy's Scope of Practice and Role in Interprofessional Healthcare

Role of Physical Therapists in Interprofessional Health Care

Physical therapists are experts in improving mobility and motion to decrease the level of impairment, reduce activity limitations, and enhance participation of their patients. Physical therapists work with patients and clients of all ages and abilities to expand, restore, and maintain motion. Many individuals are referred to a physical therapist for rehabilitation following trauma or surgery or for prevention and wellness care. Research increasingly suggests that care provided by a physical therapist can result in effective functional outcomes and cost-effective care as an alternative to surgery and prescription drugs for conditions such as back pain, degenerative disc disease, meniscal tears and osteoarthritis of the knee. Physical therapists routinely work collaboratively with their patients to develop a plan of care that enables them to achieve optimal functional outcomes. Physical therapy interventions are determined based on an examination, evaluation, and diagnosis with a plan of care that is developed with the patient and designed for the patient's individual goals, challenges, and needs. Care provided by a physical therapist is designed to inform and empower patients to participate and monitor their own recovery, health, and overall wellness.

The role of a physical therapist as an integral member of the interprofessional care team includes:

  • Providing leadership to establish the philosophy of interprofessional collaborative healthcare, emphasizing prevention and wellness; 
  • Actively engaging all members of the health care team by listening and valuing their contributions, respecting what other health professions provide for the comprehensive and coordinated care of patients, and sharing responsibility for the care of patients as a collaborative team member; 
  • Directing care of patients for the diagnosis and management of movement system disorders and dysfunction; 
  • Collaborating with other health care professionals in interprofessional planning, decision-making, and outcomes determination for patients and clients; 
  • Communicating the knowledge, skills, and professionalism of physical therapists and the 8 advanced specialty areas of physical therapist practice to all health care professionals; 
  • Identifying physical therapists who can contribute to the performance and analysis of quality research, outcomes assessment, quality of life issues, and cost/benefit relationships of specific interventions; 
  • Responding to movement system disorder diagnosis and/or treatment requests prior to and subsequent to medical intervention(s) and surgery, and other disease management where movement system disorders can affect treatment outcomes; 
  • Referring patients for consultation to other health professions based on patient or client history and physical examination findings of possible systemic disease, disorder, or dysfunction; and
  • Providing patient and health care professional education about exercise, activity, and movement for the prevention of disease and dysfunction and to maintain overall health and quality of life.